Karen's Linguistics Issues, November 2006 | Previous Months


Using Video in the EFL Classroom

by Dr. Samir M. Rammal

Assistant Professor of English, Department of Languages & Translation, Birzeit University, Palestine

CDELT 25th Annual Symposium, April 12-13, 2005

Ein-Shams University, Cairo, Egypt



This research project provides teachers of English as Foreign Language (EFL) with insights into developing materials and teaching methods that can be incorporated and thus practically implemented in their classrooms.  Emphasis will be on approaching the identity and culture of the native speakers of English through diverse authentic teaching materials.

Video has been proven to be an effective method in teaching English as a foreign/second language (EFL/ESL) for both young and adult learners.  Video can be used in a variety of instructional settings - in classrooms, on distance-learning sites where information is broadcast to learners who interact with the facilitator via video or computer, and in self-study and evaluation situations.  It can also be used in the teacher’s personal and professional development or with students as a way of presenting content, initiating conversations, and providing illustrations for various concepts.  Teachers and students can always create their own videotapes as content for the class or as a means to assess learners’ performance.


In this project, I have videotaped a number of situations which foreign students are expected to use to communicate with native speakers.  These include opening a bank account, mailing materials at the post office, asking for directions, lining up for lunch in the college dining room, and talking to a professor.  These “slices of living language”, as Lonegan (1992) calls them, can be brought into the EFL classroom with the help of video equipment to teach language and cultural concepts that are usually associated with it, both verbally and non-verbally, in a real communicative setting. 

Stempleski (1987) states that, “a rich and exciting source of video software for EFL/ESL classes is authentic material.”  Authentic video material, especially that which represents what goes on in a non ELT environment, designed for its entertaining value rather than language teaching, is a rich and exciting source of video software for instruction in an English as a second language (ESL) classroom.


Using the aforementioned situations, I have devised a language teaching lesson with activities aimed at helping EFL learners get oriented both in language use and in cross-cultural interactions with native speakers of English.  The lesson and the accompanying activities are intended to improve EFL learners’ communicative language skills (i.e., listening, speaking, reading, and writing).  Finally, by using the videotaped segments, I aim at focusing on developing the learners’ fluency in the process of language acquisition in a natural ongoing day-to-day interaction with native speakers.


In order to create effective teaching materials to be implemented in the EFL classroom by using video equipment, I adopted the following method, taking into account three factors including: language, content, and production (Sherman, 2003).

1.  As a basic step in the creation process of the teaching material, I acquainted myself with the video equipment.  For example, I studied the functions of the hardware, and then practised using it for some time until I got used to it.

2.  I asked a native-speaker colleague to help me complete this task by playing the major role in most of the videotaped segments.


3.  I explained,  in advance, the purpose of the videotaping to the people who were directly involved in the actual shooting process, and obtained prior permission in each situation from those people.


4.  I videotaped short segments that could be viewed and reviewed so as to allow longer time for students’ classroom activities and participation.


5.  I focused on the language, content, and production so as to meet the objectives of the project.  For example, I chose situations whose medium was “transferable to real life situations, which students are likely to come across” (Stempleki, 1987).  In order to make it real, I chose native-to-native interaction.  Moreover, I asked the actors involved to speak at a considerable speed and natural enough to be easily understood by students who were going to use this teaching material.  Finally, I also asked the characters to maintain pauses in the course of the dialogue.  This would give the students enough time to comprehend the language patterns that they were expected to use in classroom activities.


As for the content, I tried to choose situations whose content was of great value and interest to the students.  Besides this, the content was also chosen to project some cultural aspects of the native speaker’s life that was of interest to the EFL learner.  Finally, I realized that I had very little experience with the camcorder, but I tried to produce clear, steady, and focused picture and sound in each of the segments. 


This project aims to achieve the following:


1.                  Videotape authentic material representing non-EFL environments to give examples of particular language functions in operation.  These are situations that EFL learners are likely to encounter through their day-to-day socio-cultural interaction with native speakers of English.


2.                  Intrinsically motivate students by presenting authentic language interaction, providing an authentic look at the culture, aiding comprehension, and providing students with a medium such as the videotaped situations that I chose for this purpose.


3.                  Expose, as explicitly as possible, the nonverbal components of the language (i.e. body language) or what is technically called language paralinguistic features.


4.                  Develop the concept of ‘acculturation’ and the pragmatic rule of the ethnography of speaking that go hand-in-hand along with the explicit verbal message a native speaker employs in language interaction.


5.                  Teach English in EFL classes by designing lessons and activities that students will implement as individuals or in groups, with the aim of developing their language competence and performance, and to use English, perhaps, in similar situations to those included in each videotaped segment.  Once we implement the videotaped material with the above-mentioned objectives, we will provide students with opportunities to practice using the language skills in an authentic communicative setting. 


The project serves a two-fold purpose: (1) the pedagogic, and (2) the pragmatic.  It also incorporates English language teaching with the teaching of cultural values that an EFL learner is likely to encounter once s/he is stationed in an English native speaking environment.  Thus the following justifications have been incorporated into this project:

1.                  Using video material in a non-English Language Teaching (ELT) environment can motivate students.  They will undergo a special experience of real feelings of accomplishment when they understand what is going on in a situation where native speakers use English.  Thus, an EFL learner will realize that “with a bit of extra effort and practice, along with some help from the teacher, ‘real English’ is not beyond their comprehension” (Stempleski, 1987).


2.                  Videotaped material in a non-ELT environment presents real language.  The language is real in the sense that native speakers use it in real daily life interaction.  Therefore, the EFL learner is exposed to language use in a communicative setting from which s/he can learn the real spoken discourse including sounds, and utterances, and their underlying messages, which are, in most cases, hinted at through the non-verbal explanatory body language.


3.                  Viewing provides the learner with an aesthetic look at the culture.  Through viewing native speakers in real language interaction, the EFL learner is exposed to the cultural aspects that accompany language use in communicative settings.


4.                  Using videotaped material facilitates better comprehension of the intended messages.  Besides this, it provides an authentic pattern which, when carefully copied by EFL learners, can save them any kind of embarrassment while communicating with people from the target culture.  Moreover, it is obvious that visual clues clarify the meaning since the speaker is going to use language patterns both verbally and non-verbally.

Lesson Plan and Classroom Activities


Milli Fanzy of Kentucky Educational Television (KET, 1999) suggests that teachers should think of using as a three-part lesson, including pre-viewing, viewing, and post-viewing activities.

The videotaped material that I produced can be used to teach an EFL sixty-minute lesson.  The following are suggested activities that can cover the class duration at beginning and intermediate EFL levels.

                  Previewing Activity


A.     Rationale:

A previewing activity is meant to acquaint students with the material that they are going to view and facilitate easier and better comprehension, thus achieving successful results in language teaching.  Consequently, the teacher may design this activity to help students with their language skills.  Indeed, it is obvious for both the teacher and students to work cooperatively, deliberately, and simultaneously with the intention of developing the four skills (Dublin & Olshtain, 1991).


B.     Procedure:

Use the following sample brainstorming questions and hints about what students expect to view:

Teacher:        What are we going to do now?  (Fixing video equipment)

Student 1:      I think we’re going to watch a video.

Teacher:        Good, what would you do when you lose your way?

Student 2:      I use a map.

Teacher:        O.K.  But what if you don’t have a map?

Student 3:      I’ll ask somebody in the street.

Teacher:        Very good.  Now we’re going to watch a woman asking somebody in the street to find her way.  Please, watch and listen carefully as the next activity going to be based on the videotaped material. 


            (The teacher half-darkens the classroom, turns on the TV and video equipment, plays the first segment while everybody              

            watches and listens carefully).           

            While-viewing Sample Activity:

            (Sound off) Teacher asks these questions:

  1. Where does this conversation take place?

  2. Who do you think the woman is?

  3. What do you think is she looking for?

  4. Where do you think the man is going?


             Post-viewing Sample Activity:

            (Sound and Picture)

            Circle the correct number.  Your answers should be based on the viewing and listening:

a) The man was…        1.  angry           2.  pleased        3.  cooperative             4. in hurry

b) The man looked…   1.  old              2.  young           3.  middle-aged            4. sick

c) The woman was…   1.  polite           2.  smiling         3.  panting                    4. scared

d) The questions were   1.  direct           2.  formal          3.  informal                   4.  funny

            While-viewing Activity:

            The teacher plays the video again and asks the students to work on the following ‘while-viewing’ activity:

While viewing and listening to the following segment, please write the directions that will help the woman find her way to the place she is asking about.  It is preferable to draw a sketch to the destination on a sheet of paper.

            Post-viewing Discussion Group Activity:

After the students have already viewed and listened to the segment, the teacher will ask them to sit in groups of four or five and discuss their reaction to the man’s and woman’s interaction.  For example, they can discuss the woman’s behavior when she stopped the man to ask for directions.  Was her behavior culturally and linguistically appropriate?  How did the man react?  Was he helpful?  What verbal and non-verbal language behaviors were employed?  Etc.

            Post-viewing Activity: Writing Task

The teacher can ask his students to write an outline description of the man’s and woman’s use of phrases in the course of the interaction.  For instance, what polite expressions, compliments, and accompanying non-verbal gestures are expected to be employed in similar situations.

            Post-viewing Activity:  Writing Task Combined with Role-Playing

The teacher can ask two students to role-play similar situations to the ones they have just viewed and simultaneously the rest of the class to write down an outline direction like the one presented in the video segment.

Video material can be a very useful source and asset for the language teaching-learning process because it combines both fun and pedagogic instructions in authentic material that reflect real interaction.  By employing videotaped material, teachers can always create an indefinite number of language teaching activities.  The devised activities above are mere examples based on one short segment and each focuses on a different language skill that EFL students need to acquire.

Stempleski and Tomalin (1989) point out a recent trend in the use of the medium to stimulate oral and written communication among students.  Another trend in the use of video language teaching, readily apparent to anyone who has surveyed the Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL) annual convention programs since 1986, is the use of authentic material - video and television material designed for entertainment rather than for language teaching.  Likewise, articles on video in second language teaching reflect a central concern with the use of authentic material (Brinton & Gaskill, 1987; Griffin, 1980; Hill, 1987; Kerridge, 1982).

Finally, I would like to comment that this mild attempt at revisiting the use of video equipment and material in a non-ELT environment to give examples of particular language functions in operation gave me the opportunity to explore more relevant material in the field of “video in action”, and made what has previously ‘sounded Greek to me’ a language that I understand and use.


          Brinton, D., & Gaskill, W.  (1987).  Using news broadcast in the ESL/EFL classroom.  TESOL Quarterly, 12.  403-413.

Dublin, Fradia & Olshtain, Elite. (1991).  Course Design: Developing Programs and Materials for Language Learning.  Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 

          Franzy, Milli.  (1999).  Kentucky Educational Television.  Kentucky.  USA.

          Golebiowska, Aleksandra.  (1990).  Getting Students to Talk.  New York:  Prentice Hall.

          Griffin, S.  M.  (1980).  Video Studios: The language labs for the 1980s.  Cross Currents, 7.  (1).  45-48.

Hill, J.  K.  (1987).  The recording and use of off-air French television programs with advanced learners.  Audio-Visual Language Journal, 16.  (2).  81-84.

Kerridge, D.  (1982).  The use of video films.  In M.  Geddes & G. Sturtridge (Eds.), Video in the Language Classroom (pp.  107-121).  London:  Heinemann.

          Lonergan, Jack.  (1992).  Video in Language Teaching.  Cambridge:  Cambridge University Press.

          Nunan, David.  (1992).  Designing Tasks for the Communicative Classroom.  Cambridge:  Cambridge University Press.

          Shareman, Jane.  (2003).  Using Authentic Video in the Language Classroom.  Cambridge:  Cambridge University Press.

Stempleski, Susan.  (1987).  Short takes:  Using authentic video in the English class.  Paper presented at the Annual Meeting of the International Association of Teachers of English as a Foreign Language (21st, Westende, Belgium, April 12-14, 1987).

Stempleski, Susan & Tomalin, Barry.  (1990).  Video in Action:  Recipes for Using Video in Language Teaching.  New York:  Prentice Hall.

          Tomalin, B.  (1993).  Teaching young children with video.  In Stempleski, S. & Arcario, P.  (Eds.).       


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